Friday, October 11, 2019

Judge looks to make changes guardianship program following Fierle case

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WESH 2 Investigates has learned of changes aimed at keeping a closer eye on public and professional guardians.

Guardians are those appointed by a court to handle the medical and financial affairs of incapacitated, mostly elderly, people.

A criminal investigation was launched after a ward of former professional guardian Rebecca Fierle, Steven Stryker, died just days after Fierle refused to revoke a do-not-resuscitate order.

Officials said Fierle signed the order without the knowledge of Stryker or his daughter, Kim Stryker.

"I would like to see justice for my father," she said.

The investigation prompted Central Florida courts to revoke more than 140 other DNRs for her wards, including Jack Meagher.

"Somebody needs to try to save my life," Meagher told WESH 2 News.

Last month, Orange County's Comptroller released an audit that said Fierle had billed AdventHealth more than $3.6 million during the past five years, mostly for unknown services for 472 patients who were not legally her wards.

The audit also found she double-billed AdventHealth and some of the 95 patients who were listed as wards.

Donald Myers, the chief judge of the 9th Circuit, which includes Orange and Osceola counties, is making changes to the way guardian cases are handled to ensure vulnerable, mostly elderly people, are not victimized by their guardians.

"Through the Rebecca Fierle story and incident we have recognized that there are parts of the guardianship system that we just do not have the resources to address," Myers said.

Myers told WESH 2 News he's changing that.

A new judge will be added beginning Jan. 1.

That means one judge will handle probate and trust cases, while the other handles just guardianship and mental health matters.A guardian case manager will also be added. Myers is reviewing software and a database in Pennsylvania that tracks guardian cases, and alerts the state and courts of unauthorized billing or payments.

Fierle had more than 450 wards in more than a dozen counties.

"A statewide system like that would assist us in being able to see firsthand where guardians are working, how many cases they are handling and the potentials for fraud or abuse," Myers said.

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Judge looks to make changes guardianship program following Fierle case

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